Lego enthusiasts and builders assembled at the Bricks by the Bay convention at the Santa Clara Convention Center from July 12-15. Run entirely by volunteers, the four-day convention celebrates all things Lego with workshops, guest speakers, vendors, games and displays featuring Lego builders’ MOCs, or My Own Creations.
The Bay Area-based convention was founded by some members of the San Francisco Bay Area Lego Users’ Group (BAYLUG) in 2010. The first one took place in a Fremont hotel, but the convention proved to be such a huge success and moved to the Santa Clara Convention Center.
Erik Wilson, the convention’s president, claims he was probably one of the first kids in the U.S. to own Legos. His grandmother who lived in Sweden visited Denmark, bought some Legos and shipped them to Wilson and his brother. He soon forgot about them when he headed off to college.
But it wasn’t long until his love for Legos was rekindled.
“My brother had kids, and he absconded with all of the Legos to give to his kids,” Wilson said. “But he had an attack of guilt, and so he bought some new Lego sets and he said, ‘Here, I’ll give you these in return for them.’ I said, ‘What do I need these for?’ But then I looked at them and I go, ‘Ooo, this is really cool.’ And I haven’t looked back since.”
Wilson said the convention’s success and popularity is due to Legos’ universal appeal.
“You know it’s such a part of our culture growing up, almost all of us know playing with Legos, and it’s got that kind of limitless possibilities,” Wilson said. “You can put them together the way the instructions in the box say. Maybe there’s an alternative set of instructions. You can tear it apart, modify it. You can make something entirely new. There’s a trillion different things you can make even out of one Lego box.”
The theme of the convention this year is “Animation.” According to Wilson, it refers to either models that move or cartoons, animated movies and TV shows. With the recent success of “The Lego Movie” franchise, this year’s theme fits perfectly.
In one corner of the exhibit hall, adults and children gathered closely together to get a glimpse of what Flynn DeMarco and his partner, Richard Board, cooked up for their display this year.
DeMarco played with Legos as a child. And three years ago, he picked up a Lego X-Men set and “it kind of all went up and downhill from there depending on how you look at it.”
“From there, my partner and I would buy the mini-figs,” DeMarco said. “We would kind of challenge each other to build a small vignette based around that character. And that kind of got us into the building and the detailing.”
Following this year’s theme, DeMarco and Board created an intricate animated MOC called “Treasure of the Snake Queen” — complete with a dragon, a castle and an epic battle. The adventurers begin their journey in a small village and travel up the mountain through different scenarios. Once they make it to the castle at the top, they must slay the dragon and defeat the snake queen.
In another corner of the hall, volunteer Patty Sherin’s 3D mosaic, “The Lotus Flower,” is on display. The flower is centered and surrounded by muddy water as a reflection of her Buddhist faith.
She served as a former conference director for the past two years, but stepped down this year to focus on her Lego-related business. When she isn’t busy volunteering, she’s checking out all the other MOCs with her friends, including Sharon Elizabeth Mitchell.
Mitchell came out to support Sherin’s artwork. She said she loved Sherin’s mosaic, but that she was so amazed by the MOCs that she couldn’t choose a favorite.
“I’m awed and inspired by all of the different executions of people’s creativity,” Mitchell said. “It seems just when I think, ‘Oh, okay, I’ve probably pretty much seen it all,’ then something I totally couldn’t fathom imagining is the next display.”
Sherin said she hopes people leave the convention feeling the same way Mitchell felt — inspired. Anyone can build anything if you put your mind to it.
“I think a lot of people come to the conventions and they look at the MOCs and they’re like, ‘Oh, I can’t do that,’” Sherin said. “And the truth of the matter is everybody started at the beginning. Everyone who built something amazing started with their first set. So I think what people should take away is that if you keep practicing, you keep building and you keep refining and tweaking and asking people for advice, you can be an amazing Lego artist.”
To learn more about Bricks by the Bay, visit www.bricksbythebay.com/en/.